Persistence Pays Off
Saturday 9th August 2014
—Margate FC 1 Hampton & Richmond 0—
Yesterday really was a day to remember, for various reasons.
My morning consisted of going to Terry’s for some ‘mascot maintenance’ on Gary Gator – due to Terry’s DIY knowledge, I’m pleased to announce that Gary’s spine & head are a lot sturdier now, owing to the expert placing of metal pipes.
I was also lucky enough to be given a loom band in Margate away colours by Terry’s son Arthur – as with the home one he kindly made me, I’ll definitely be wearing it with pride throughout the season.
As Terry, Arthur & I made our way up to the ground on a beautiful sunny day – perfect footballing conditions – we felt we brought sunshine to other people’s lives too – the looks Terry received while carrying Gary Gator to the ground were definitely amusing, and a lot of people seemed to appreciate our mascot!
We arrived at Hartsdown Park, just in time to see the away team’s coach encountering some slight parking problems, but eventually these were rectified.
As ever, I bought a matchday programme, which really is an amazing read this year – I particularly enjoyed Bob Laslett’s column, as well as the story of Margator & Alice Gator – who knew a mascot could be so romantic!
Seeing Dave Miles & Poppy amongst others, is always a pleasure – Poppy was kind enough to offer to make my new-born son Liam a quilt, and Rick Simmons gave me the first handshake & congratulations of the day – without wanting to harp on too much, thanks again to everyone for their kind words, and thanks to Sarah and Ivesy for their card & present as well – I feel very lucky to know so many genuinely nice people.
Some traditions were broken, before the game – we now have nets up, to protect people from getting hit by any wayward shots (I’d have to agree with Beth’s observation – it felt odd not having to shout “Heads!” if any shots went astray!) and Pridders took over Dan Boyle’s mantle as ladies man (for one game at least) by having his photo taken with the Hampton & Richmond physio – I feel this will turn into a long and good-humoured competition, over the season!
My pre-match preparations mainly included talking to Beth about Scotland (always nice to have something in common!) receiving lots of kind words, congratulations & handshakes from all the people I’m lucky enough to know at MFC (too many to name!) and catching up with some Hampton supporting friends I met last season – it was a pleasure to see Alec & his dad again, & I wish Hampton all the best for the rest of the season (except when Margate play them at The Beveree in November!)
The terraces were packed, the MFC flag & Gary Gator were positioned for action, not to mention Larry Lemur, who looked excited for the season ahead, along with Mel, her husband Steve, & his son – but sadly, there were no Mini Shark Lads, which put paid to the singing side of things, although Stu, some lads in front of us (whose names I didn’t catch, but they were top guys) & myself gave it a decent go.
Apparently the Mini Shark Lads have all landed Saturday jobs, which is great for them, but not so great for the singing side of things – hopefully The Choir will be back sooner, rather than later!
As the team lineups were announced, & the sides took the field to ‘Let Me Entertain You’ by Robbie Williams – a great choice – the 2014 / 2015 season was underway.
In truth, there was a little bit of rustiness about both teams, although Margate’s fluent passing play was a joy to watch – while Nikki Bull was relatively untroubled in the Margate goal, the new Hampton keeper (who wasn’t their usual number one – the always-smiling Rodney Chiweshe) made various decent stops from Messrs Prior, Stuart, Rents & Allen.
Hampton were proving a tough nut to crack, their defence seeming to block everything thrown at it, and the only other noticeable moments of the goalless first half was the general ineptitude of the referee, and one of the assistant referees, who bore a striking resemblance to Chesney from Coronation Street (Well, that was the gist of what I yelled at him in a moment of frustration, anyway)
As the halftime whistle went, I trooped down to the newly all-seated Coffin End, where a couple of youngsters insisted on giving Gary Gator a personal escort, bless them!
Terry, Tony & Frankie were soon on hand to give Gary his own personal seat, and he was in esteemed company, as he had Terry’s mum & Frankie for company (although his street cred was diminished somewhat, with me sitting next to him!)
Frankie managed to refrain from regaling Gary with his famous jokes, which was a brilliant achievement – sadly it meant I missed out on hearing any new material!
Gate continued their waves of attacks in the second half, in between Hampton having a couple of free kicks in dangerous positions & corners happily going to waste (despite their introduction of last season’s Golden Boot winner, Charlie Moone ) – but as the game went on, nothing, it seemed, would give Margate their breakthrough – the referee contriving to miss what appeared to be an obvious penalty, as Ryan Moss was sent tumbling in the box.
Cometh the 77th minute, cometh the man – step forward Mr Anthony Riviere.
His performance at right back had yet again, been superb, earning him a well deserved Man Of The Match award – and it was from his cross that Lewis Taylor headed the winner, with a little over ten minutes to go.
Glee & relief were the words of the day, which could definitely be seen in the players’ celebrations, thanks to a great photo from Tony!
As Ryan Day announced the official attendance – a brilliant turn-out of 727 (which Neil Wyatt later pointed out, was better than any of the attendances in the Conference South) the ref seemed to add on an incredible amount of injury-time – although clearly my nerves had got the better of me by then, as Frankie informed me that the man in black had only added on three extra minutes!
Thankfully, Margate saw out the rest of the game in composed fashion, and the final whistle was greeted with a loud cheer by the Gate faithful.
The players really had put a shift in, & as they came over to acknowledge the crowd, their efforts were met with a round of applause – a well deserved victory, and I felt that Margate had shown great patience & persistence to get the season off to a winning start.
After a brief sojourn to congratulate the players & catch up with Dan, I happily made my way back to Margate station, with Frankie & his son Tom joining me for part of the way.
Needless to say, various questions were fired at me from people who saw a short, chubby lad toting a giant plush Gator on his back – these ranged from “Is that a dragon?” to “Alright mate, what the f**k is that?!”
With those cultured words, I think it’s definitely safe to say that the football season is here again!
Terry’s Away Keeper Arse-O-Meter
“No banter… 4 out of 10”
Terry’s Steak & Kidney Pie Review
“Nice pastry, could have done with a little more gravy – when are the Chicken & Mushroom ones available? 7 out of 10“